Children's Hospital Colorado

Neonatal Occupational Therapy

Our pioneering neonatal program treats the smallest patients at their most vulnerable, achieving the outcomes that affect the rest of their lives.

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The babies we care for in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have complex needs. That’s why we treat not just their medical conditions, but also help advance their emotional and developmental progress.

Our neonatal occupational therapists work with newborns — along with their parents and caregivers — to help them grow and thrive.

What is neonatal occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy helps people learn how to better perform the “occupations” of their daily life. For newborns, this means learning the skills necessary for activities such as feeding, bathing, sleeping and moving.

Because of their medical needs, babies in the NICU are sometimes unable to enjoy simple things — like a parent’s touch. They may also experience stress from procedures, lights and sounds in the NICU. Occupational therapy helps babies better cope during their time in the NICU. We also help parents and caregivers, educating them on ways to support a baby who was born early or is sick. Our therapists provide positive sensory experiences — like promoting skin-to-skin contact with a baby’s parents. We also use other types of soothing touch, including gentle handling and massage, where appropriate.

What conditions can benefit from neonatal occupational therapy?

Our occupational therapists work with babies and parents as needed during their stay in the NICU. Occupational therapy can help babies with a variety of medical conditions including:

What services do neonatal occupational therapists provide?

Your baby’s therapy is personalized to address exactly what they need. The goal of treatment is to help babies acquire the skills to thrive during their everyday activities.

We work on activities that boost central nervous system development, movement, weight gain and motor skills. Developing these skills will help your baby leave the hospital sooner — and healthier.

Newborn occupational therapy benefits babies, parents and other caregivers while in the NICU and beyond. Depending on your child’s age, condition and needs, this care may include:

  • Learning feeding techniques and positions
  • Massage to help your baby relax and respond in a positive way to touch
  • Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) to enhance bonding with caregivers
  • Practicing motor control (such as moving hand to mouth)
  • Sensory development
  • Techniques to help comfort your baby

Our expert neonatal occupational therapy care team

The neonatal occupational therapy team includes highly skilled, licensed occupational therapists who specialize in helping babies thrive after being born prematurely or with a serious illness. Each of our neonatal occupational therapists have specific training that allows them to better care for our tiniest patients. Our hospital also has a dedicated team of certified hand therapists who provide support for babies born with hand or limb anomalies.

Where to find our neonatal occupational therapy services

Learn where to find our neonatal occupational therapy services at Children’s Colorado locations across the state.